Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter Vacation?

So THIS is what it feels like to relax. After going from Mid July to late September without and job and then transitioning transitioning to having to rush around balancing work and school. Its nice to just be able to do nothing for a few weeks.

My written exams were so-so. Actually I did quite well on my Princples exam. Better than I thought I would. I credit it to the fact that I got my head out of my ass pretty early on and asked Chef Angus for some advice and guidance as to what to do. Like I said in an earlier blog, I think the lingering self doubt I sometimes have is what got me the first time through so I was glad to beat that this time. And with that in mind I'm pretty sure I did pretty crappy on my Banquets exam. I knew going into the exam that I had a low B. So part of me wasn't worried. Call me not dedicated enough, and give me all the crap you want for settling for JUST a B. But hell, its better than "settling" for C's and D's like in high school. Oh well.

The presentation I had to do for Principles went as well as you would expect from me. Which means, mass amounts of nervousness, mass amounts of rushing around finishing it and then an "oh fuck it, lets just do it" attitude about 2 seconds before. But I did GREAT. Not any of the stuttering or flusterness I'm known for when I get nervous. I made my points well. Chef Angus loved it. The one person from my class who I ran into a few days later loved it, it went great.

Friday after the catastrophe that was my exam, I went to the bar with some of the people from like 5:30 at night. And this was one of those bars that was also a restaurant. So let me lay it out for you. 15 or so people between the ages of 21-40 + end of the semester + total end of school for some of them + some of them moving away + oh, the fact that you have culinary students who could regularly fill up a swear jar while SOBER = a recipe for trouble. ha. I had actually caught up to them after they had been there for an hour or so and promptly ordered a hamburger (btw, The Cottage Bar KINDA knows how to make Medium Rare). A bunch of them had had a shot just before I got there and then had another one after I had been there 10 minutes. Then someone may have dropped the f-bomb. And there was a family next to us who didn't really like that. And doing what I do best, I was like "screw it" and just ate my hamburger. Eventually they moved. I suppose I should feel kind of bad. But thats life. The other people around us loved us though, so I think it evens it out.

After we kindly and subtley got pressured to leave some of us met up with a few other people at another bar and the drinking continued. Although then I had to be lame and go pick up my sister from the airport. But I think I learned something that night. That I totally should've started hanging out with Culinary folk sooner. It was nice to hang out with people I felt comfortable with and could be myself with. I havn't had enough of that lately other than hanging with Zigs and G-Spot. And furthermore, being done with the semester and the feel good feeling I have from it REALLY reafrirmed my decision to go back to culinary school. While I've come to the conclusion that I may not become the best cook out there, I HAVE regained a sense of direction and idea of where to go in life.

In other news:

~ I have a fan (or fans). Today at work Peter brought up that he had read my blog and saw what I wrote. And to clear the air, he IS African American. In my defense I had worked with someone as dark as him who had a similar accent and was from Central or South America. But oh well. He gave me some good natured ribbing about it but said he didn't mind.

~Still kind of in limbo with work. I'm waiting to see what my schedule will get switched to once I move back to only night availiability. Should be interesting to see

~ I made stock and then Mushroom soup from the Les Halles cook book. Good shit, I took pictures they'll be up soon.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Damn....its been almost 2 weeks since I've posted. Ironically I don't think many people know about this blog yet, so I guess it works out. ha.

Anyway time to get you all up to speed.

My practical ended up going okay. I was nervous as hell, it was kind of chaotic. But with a few pointers and suggestions (and a slight bit of inspiration) from my table partner I ended up hanging in there and getting an 86 out of 100, which I think works out to be somewhere in the B range. So yeah, I'm happy. Pictures of it will hopefully be around soon.

School in general is going good. Its almost done for the semester and I'm happy with how I did. I seem to be more genuinely interested and enthusiastic than I was the first time around. I am kind of bummed that theres a portion of what I learned before that I havn't retained. But I'm still learning things and and making a forward motion in knowledge and confidence. So I'm hoping I can keep that up. I still have two more big assignments due next week, so once those are past I can relax a bit.

Work is work. Although its been kind of hectic. It seems that two of the guys I was working with both had fake green cards. And so yeah, they both got fired. So things were crazy for a few weeks why they were trying to get everything covered. But now they have one new guy hired and maybe another so things are almost back to normal. I'm kind of hoping that with some of the minor shuffling going on that I can start cooking. But the one thing working against me is my speed so I'm not really sure yet. Maybe I should talk to my boss about that.

Thanksgiving kind of sucked. Due to the afforementioned problems with losing two people, I ended up having to work. Which was SUPER crazy. Yeah, it sucked.

My birthday was okay. I never did end up going out. But I got enough new cookbooks to leave me busy for a few months. Yeah, thats that.

So yeah, thats my last two weeks in a nutshell

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wish me luck!!

So here we finally come to one of the big humps in this stint of Culinary School. The practical exam. Practicals pretty much consist of combining alot of the skills we've learned into class and using them in a dish. Back when I was in the Skills class this involved doing all the vegtable cuts on a carrot (and then using the said cuts in a salad), make a salad, make a stock, use the stock to make velute. Bone a chicken, use the breasts from said chicken to make a breaded Chicken Cordon Bleu and then combine them all to make a meal on the plate. Its actually alot easier than it sounds although at the time I was scared shitless.

For Banquets and Caterering its a bit more complicated. We have to make two forcemeats (a gallantine and a ballantine), tournet our selected veggies, pick a starch to "mold" as a platform. And then Aspic it all. Aspic'ing is the practice of putting a geletin on it to hold it together. Its used for display purposes and to give it a shine. In other words, a skill we won't be using much in the real world. I'm not too confident in my abilities of making the forcemeats, I suck at tournet'ing and suck at aspicing. On the bright side, I'm good at everything else. So who knows.

My big concern (aka this is where I get contemplative) is that I can sometimes get overwhelmed which sometimes leads to a lack of confidence. Which is ultimately what led to me dropping out the first time. I tend to compare myself to others in class as opposed to just focusing on my own. I've been getting better at asking for help when needed which actually led to a bit of a closer friendship/mentorship from one of my teachers. As well as becoming somewhat good friends with a guy in my class. I need to keep telling myself "I know I can" and as long as I try my best and am not half ass'ing it, then thats what should make me happy.

Work is going good. I'm getting about 22 hrs a week which comes out to about 360 or so dollars every two weeks that I somehow make last. Damn it sucks living pay check to paycheck again. But thats life.

On the brightside, my birthday is in two weeks. Not only (in theory) do I get to get plastered for free. But hopefully I'll be getting a few new cooking related books. Despite being a big Bourdain fan, the Les Halles Cookbook DID NOT make it on the list. Only cause I know that if my mom puts two and two together that thats the "unofficial" cook book of one of my favorite chefs, I won't be getting it till Christmas (thus why I probably won't be getting Mario Batali's Italian Grill until then). So I'm totally using the inevitable b-day money I get to get it. heh

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The inevitability of restaurant/culinsary school networking

"This is what sucks about taking a few years off and then coming back. I don't know anybody and you all know who half the people are in all your classes"

~me to my group partner Steve (during Bakery/Deli Management)

Its a little known fact that if you spend long enough in the restaurant industry that eventually you find yourself hanging out more and more with other restaurant employees. Not just the ones you work with but you find yourself meeting intentionally or un-intentionally other restaurant employees. Either due to the proximity of their restaurant to yours (I.E. back when I was at the Lansing Carrabba's, the Outback next door was a popular post work hang out), or due to the incestous nature of the business (which I'm about to get to in the next sentence). Eventually if you drink the kool-aid and decide you have the lack of sanity to work the rest of the life in the business, these other restaurant workers (especially the ones who also decide to become lifers) pretty much become your lifeblood. I don't know how many instances I've read, either in memoirs of some of the chef's I like, or from hearing from others, where someone has become a chef or sous chef and instantly called everyone they know to get them to work for them. Or vice versa. They are also prone to pass on opportunities, give references, etc etc. You get the picture.

Its much the same way here in Culinary School. Most people (aka not me) start off in the bakery class or Skill Development or Bakery/Deli Management, meet a bunch of people in the class, then switch, have another lab, have some of the same people in their class and some different. And so on. By the end of their first year or so, they're pretty much on their way to knowing half the department. Which works out great as far as networking goes. Between fellow students AND techers its pretty easy to get hooked up with a job upon graduation which works out pretty well.

On the flip side, theres also the dirty realization (at both school and in the professional world) that all your faults or any controveries are also going to be passed around. For instance, my drinking buddy/unofficial wingman Jonny used to be a server at Carrabba's until he got caught screwing with the checks. He would give people their checks at the full amount, they would pay, and if they paid with cash, he would split the checks taking off any coffee's/soft drinks close the non-drink half and have the money go for that, then later he's get an manager to "delete his screw-up" and then keep the money (yes people, one of my best friends was essentially a con artist) After he got fired he applied to Logans and sure enough they called Carrabba's and he didn't get the job. Another example is someone who I currently have (or had) a class with. They have slowly built up the reputation of coming to class in various stages of intoxication and even at times drank some of the alcohol in the walk in. In came to a head yesterday when during our banquet our teacher sent them home. Her problem was so common knowledge that when me and another class mate were talking about it in the locker room today that someone walked in and know exactly who we were talking about.

I think this phenomenon in general is one of those things that is a universal thing to all industries. Only I think that due to the turnover rate and the availiability of opportunities its amped up a bit for the food industry. Its one of those things like our facination with potty humor, and the crazy hours, and our habit of dropping less than polite words and the pressure, that you almost have to get used to. And if not, then you probably don't belong in restaurants. Not trying to be a dick, but thats the way it is.

And like always, this was one of those musings that started off with a thought in my head (aka the conversation in the locker room) and blew up to the blog you're reading now. Fun times

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We now interupt this food related blog to show you that yes I DO have non-food related intrests

So up there in the little blurb under the name of the blog I mention I statskeep for the local roller derby leage, The Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. On top of that I also help the Kalamazoo Derby Dames. I've been doing that a little over two years.

I got involved partially due to watching the short lived series "Rollergirls," but mostly because New Holland Brewing Co, which is where I worked at the time, was one of their sponsers and I went to a bout, got addicted, but also found out that my short attention span when it comes to sports made it hard to watch. So I ended up volunteering and they havn't gotten rid of me since. ha.

At first it was something I just did for fun and to have a chance to meet more people in GR. I was at the cusp of FINALLY moving to GR and wanted to meet more people from the town. But now, I've learned to love the sport itself, and my responsibilites to the point where my cynic nature and my bluntness (I blame the aspergers) gets me in trouble if I point out things too bluntly (I like to call it tough love).

I'm mostly a scorekeeper. Pretty much my invovlement consists of being a hermit from everyone for a month, showing up about an hour and a half before the bout starts (when most volunteers are there for another hour before that), occasionally downing a beer or two (which I'm not really supposed to be doing...but I stand by the fact that it doesn't affect what I do), doing my job, then running off to the afterparty and making a drunkien a-hole of myself.

Despite the fact I don't make many non-bouts appearances, I always do like to remind myself (and others) that the derby folk are almost like a second family with me. Not counting the Calvin folk (Zigs, Boersma etc etc), or APD or Dynalo, pretty much everyone I know in GR I met through derby. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be who I was today if it wasn't for derby. Actually, I might be, but I wouldn't know as many of the same people. Last spring I got voted "Number 1 fan" and my reply was "what the hell for?" Despite my sarcastic assesment of what I do, I don't do it because I'm a fan. I mean I am a fan, but for me, my dedication is mostly because I love everyone involved to death and have fun doing it. The minute it stops being fun for me, is the minute I leave. And despite previous statements I may have made, I don't do it for recognizement (although it would've been damn funny/cool to win the "honorary Derby girl" award).

I guess the point of this blog is kind of a tribute to them. And a thanks to nobody in paticular for making it such a wonderful experience. For putting up with all my cynical comments, and my drunken tomfoolery. And a special thanks to those who I have become super close friends with.

~Tim aka The Jager Bomber.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hooray for school!

" they could make sausage out of him"
~me, on the Simpsons Halloween special when Krusty gets knocked into a wood grinder

Its about time I felt compelled to write a blog.

Anyway things are progressing really well at work and school. Training to work morning dishwashing shift was an utter disaster. Ok, not really. It went alright. But, I don't have the speed. Its another one of those catch 22. I probably won't work regular day time dishwashing shifts till I can get faster, yet I won't get faster unless I work regular day time shifts. But thats okay, cause I've been getting prep shifts too. So it works out.

School has been VERY interesting. Last week we made force meats (and this week we finally got to eat them). We also made sausage (which is a force meat). And when I say "made" I don't mean cook. I mean we actually started off when beef. Cut it in to smaller pieces, grind them, mix with spices, then grind again and then put into casings (aka pig intestines). Fun shit.

Today we're supposed to be doing ice carving. While I really don't have much artistic talent. The prospect of ice carvin sounds interesting. So I hope its something I'll enjoy.

Anyway, I HAVE PICTURES. Only they're not on my computer yet so I'll put them up later

Friday, October 24, 2008

The new status quo

"So whats your school schedule like"
"Monday through Thursday 2pm-9:45PM and then Friday 4:15-9:45pm"
"Woah...thats almost like a 40hr week of school"

~Lindsay and Me at Mulligans.

Wednesday night I went to Mulligans. My friend Joel had entered a piece into an PBR inspired art show and Lindsay was going. So when I drunk dialed her on Sunday night she made me promise to come. Which is kind of ironic, the last time I saw Joel and Lindsay was the day I got "fired" from Graydons, in otherwords when my life was spriralling into hecticness and stressfulness. Now that I'm on the upswing of that low point, I'm finally seeing them again. Joel didn't win the contests BUT I did get two free PRB t-shirts so thats a plus. I love PBR. Which is kind of funny. I mean all my other favorie beers: Killians, Guiness, Zoomer, Poet. Dirty Bastard: are all more heavier beers and then there's PBR. Oh well, regardless I have two free PBR shirts and you don't (unless you were there).

My new classes are pretty interesting. Principles of Food Preparation more or less covers the science of food (like for intstant, we all know yeast reacts faster with warm water, Principles covers WHY it reacts with water....among other thing). Its going to be an intense 7 weeks with that class and alot of hard work. But I have Chef Angus so it will be fun and SUPER informational (at least per Chef Whitman).

Also I have Banquets and Catering, and get this, it covers how to cook for banquets and catering. heh. Also we'll learn more garde manger techniques as well as how to make sausage and a little bit of ice carving. Interesting shit. One of our big assignments is for our groups to cater an event. My groups is doing a smaller dinner for a group of 8 people. Yeah, part of me wanted to try to do one of the bigger ones. But at least with a small group I have an easier time learning the more practical skills. Besides I have a feeling that all our groups may still do prep and cooking for the big events. But pretty much all we've been working on are the initial planning (I.E. menu's, table setups etc etc) for those. Next week though we actually get to start cooking so I'm looking forward to that.

Things on the work front are great. I'm steadily getting about 20 hrs a week now. And Shawn has a semi-official morning schedule set up for me. I've also been getting regular prep shifts so at least I've been doing SOME thing with food. So no complaints there.

All in all, life I know it has changed, and those changes are good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Workplace Rundown: Part 1

"Did you take the bakeshop clas yet?
"Did you like it...are you good at baking?"
"Um...I liked it, but I'm not a fan of baking
"heh....neither am I"

~Me and Chef Shawn during my interveiw

I think that question during the interveiw, which was close to the end is when I first got a good feeling about wether or not I'd get the job. It also finished establishing the small little kinship me and Shawn kinda feel due to both going to Culinary School at GRCC. I'd like to say that in the long run Shawn is going to be the chef that ends up being a mentor and an inspiration to me. Every chef/cook has them. Bourdain had Bigfoot, Ramsey had Marco Pierre White, and so on. The downside to that theory is that I've really only worked one day when Shawn was there. So its not really proveable yet

The person I have worked alot with is Peter, the Sous-chef. He (along with Shawn) fit the whole Michael Symon mold of being a chef. In other words the guy you can't really see as a chef cause he's skinny (Symon totally got asked that during an episode of Dinner: Impossible). But he's super nice and he's black. I suppose I should use the more PC term of "African American". but I'm not totally convinced he's from Africa because he does have somewhat of an Central america type accent. Both days I've done prep he's been working and he has taken me somewhat under his wing in terms of teaching me stuff. Also we talked a little about adoption (he asked which of my parents was the white one, and which was the black one, and obviously I told him I didn't know because I was adopted) so that was kind of neat to connect with him a little.

Both Shawn and Peter have one or two shifts a week doing the cooking at nights, but other wise I work with Elvis, Steve or Tom.

Elvis actually isn't his realname. At this point I'm not really sure what it is, but oh well. I hang out with roller girls. I should be used to not knowing peoples real names. Like me, he is kind of quiet so we havn't talked alot out side of the normal work talk. But like most the people I work with, he's nice and is always fun to work with.

Steve and Tom are both a bit more outgoing so I've talked a little more to both of them. Also they both trained me (along with Elvis). So I've gotten to know them somewhat.

Then theres Justin who I've probably gotten to know the best. He's a big Obama supporter which became evident as he got in a semi-heated debate with Don about Obama and Mc Cain. He also trained me for a few days so he showed me the ropes to say. He's mostly just Kitchen Help as well as serving every now and then.

And finally theres Sergio. I've never worked a shift with him. But I've seen him on the tail end of his shifts. He seems pretty nice. But having never actually worked with him, I havn't really talked to him at all. Oh well.

Thats that

Monday, October 13, 2008

Update on life!

Time to get everyone up to speed. It seems like ages ago when its only been 2 weeks since I got the job. Alot seems to has happened since then. There seems to be a big debate among blog writers about how much to reveal when they write about thier life. Some like to be more vauge in terms of deniability and to avoid the spector of "talking behind peoples back." While some are cool with being more open. Me, I'm going to be kind of more in the middle. For now I'm not going to reveal the name of the place I work. If you know me in person I'll probably tell you. But yeah, I'll be more open with names and what not. If anything, its easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

Anyway, like I said, I have a job at a retirment center which I'll refer to as "The Square." I got hired in as Kitchen Help, but per my boss will get trained as a cook soon. Not the most exciting of jobs, but I'm not complaining. The job consists of doing a minor bit of prep work for breakfast, filling up the water jugs, then setting the table with the jugs, butter, half and half and crackers, washing dishes, bussing the soup bowls, and then washing dishes like crazy and hope you can stay caught up enough so that by 7;15ish or so the servers can re-set the tables. And belive me folks, its easier said than done. Regardless, thats been my life 4 days a week for about 4 hrs a day, which is the down side. Its a part time job, but it works for now.

Everyone I work with is nice. For the most part everyone is willing to help when needed. There isn't much of the semi-traditional antagonistical relationship between FOH and BOH. And the managers are decent and approachable people. The residents I've met are pretty nice too. One of the first ones I've met and talk to from time to time is Evelyn. She reminds me alot of my Grandma in that the first question she asked me was "Are you single or married?" and then went on to tell me who of the other kitchen helpers/cooks were single. Another was Bob, who is apparently prone to giving the kitchen folk pop. I have been warned about a few of the more irateable one. But I havn't run into any yet.

School is going great. I survived working the cashier station as well as the front line. I kicked butt on the fry station the whole week and kind of just watched the chaos unfold from having "Mr I've never grilled a hamburger before" (aka the dude without a sense of urgency) on the grill. Actually it was chaotic on my end too. But Chef and a few people from other groups helped too.

This 7 weeks is coming to a close so its going to be a whole new beginning in a week or so. Fun times.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Last Supper

Well here it is "The Last Supper" post so to speak. The last time I cooked for myself with out the lingering worn out feeling from work, without the hectic feeling of going to school then straight to work and then back home to squeeze inwatching TV with Zigs. And once again I know I don't have it as bad as some cooks.

The dinner in question was Parmesean Breaded Tilapia with Roasted Potates. This was one of those "recipes" so to say that was partially new to me. I've made part of it before (the potatoes) but the fish was an idea that I pulled out of my butt. It sounded good and upon looking it up online and finding a recipe done by Rachel Ray (ugh...F'n Rachel Ray), I figured it could be done.

In light of the fact that I don't want to be one of those blog writers that regularly write recipes (coupled with the fact that I really don't know the exact measuerments). I'm going to stay away from the traditional "Post the recipe, then explain how to do it in pictures" method. I'm just going to post the pictures and explain. So enjoy.



First you start off with potatoes. Like a good pound or two. Actually depending on how hungry everyone is a pound could easily feed two to three people



Then you take your trusty knife (represented here by my new toy, my santaku knife which I finally gave in a bought), and cut them into little pieces. Depending on the size of the potato, you can cut them into fourths or sixths. Then you take said pieces and put them in a bowl


After that you take your spices and put them in the bowl too. The recipe I used said "a mixture of Italian spices." Here I have Parsley, Mint, Crushed Red Pepper, Oregano, Parmasean Spice mix and some mixed Italian Spices. So yeah, use what ever. Pretty much just use them to taste. Theres no set amount I use


Then you take Olive Oil and lemon juice (which I didn't have when I made these) and put them in the bowl.


Then you toss it all. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees throw it in for 30 minutes or so and then you have something that looks like this:


So while thats cooking you start on your fish. Actually though if you're me you drink this:


Then you do your fish. (sorry, couldn't resist)


Start by putting some flour on a plate


Then crack some eggs, beat them, and put them on a plate


Then your breading


When I made it, used a mixture of Parmesean cheese and regular read crumbs you can get at the store


All in all, your counter should look something like this. Then take your fish, dredge it (aka totally cover it) in the flour, then dip it in the eggs, then cover it with the bread crumbs. A little trade secret is to use one hand for the dry ingredients (Flour and Breading) and one hand for the eggs, so you don't bread your hand.


At this point it should look like this. So then you just throw it on the pan and cook.


Cook to your desired doneness. At some point while this is happening the potaoes should get done. And badda bing, badda boom you have your dinner


Ta Da!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Cross post from my Myspace Blog:

You gotta appreciate the catch 22 of having a job. I mean having a job gives you money. Then the said money allows you to afford to be able to go out and hang out with your friends. Only once you're done with work, you're too tired and out of it to do anything. Granted I don't have it as bad as most cooks. But all I wanted to do was to spend yesterday hanging out with the posse (my semi-drunken name for Zigs, Gina, Paul and Marcy) for pulaski days. But I had to work. I got out at 8 made it to the hall by 8:20, made it to the front of the line by 9:45 only to find out I was in the wrong line. Luckily Dewiit who informed me of the decision was at the front of the right line and he let me cut. I felt bad about it, but I have a feeling half the people behind him cut anyway, oh well. I made it in only to have the posse being ready to head out. Boersma was there so I talked to him and Sheri (his wife) and Dewitt. So yeah that was my grand time at Pulaski Days. Hooray.

Work is okay I guess. I'm still trying to figure out the ropes. Everyone I met is nice. Jim, the manager of the entire retirement center, is one of those types that you're not quite sure what mood he's in because he literally always has the same vocal inflection. But regardless he seems pretty nice. Shawn, the head chef, could litteraly play a younger verstion of Eric Ripert. All he'd need to do was pick up Ripert's accent. He literaly does have the same body language as Ripert (from what little I've actually seen of him on tv). All the cooks and servers I've met are nice so far. My one problem is I still have to pick up the speed. Today (Oct 5) is going to be a real test. Depending on who you ask either I'm by myself (per Shawn), or I'm going to have someone else there just in case I get flustered and behind (per Elvis one of the cooks). But if someone else is there I'll still be running the ship by myself. So we'll see. I'll have to be on my A game.

I have a sneaky suspicion that my main days off will be Monday and Wednesdays. Only because I have class right up till 4 and thats when my shift would start. In the long run it actually somewhat works out because Wednesdays are laundry day and I have a bunch to do.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008




After, what, almost 3 months of searching I got a job. It wasn't at the place I had an interview on Thursday. But it was from last week's batch of applications. I had an interveiw yesterday (Tues) which I felt VERY good about. And then today at the beginning of class I got a phone call. I recognized the number as the place and quicked ran into the bathroom and took it and got offered the job. And so I start tomorrow.

Its a job at a retirement home. I'm going to start off doing dishwashing and food preping and occasionaly serving and food running if needed. And then eventually work my way up to cook. Not the most exciting of jobs. But the people seem nice and it will give me practical experience in cooking.

Hell in this economy, it doesn't pay to be picky. And considering that one of my heroes (Chef Mendoza, formerly of Morimoto NYC) is in the whole "I need a job and have only gotten a couple calls from the 2 dozen or so resumes I sent in" boat, I shouldn't complain.

In other news, the cashier station in class has gone pretty good this week (*knock on wood*). Monday I got the short end of the stick and ended up on the busiest register. And I had no real problems. So I was like, "f' it" and stayed there Tuesday and then today. Which caused our teacher to get on the other guys case until they pointed out I WANTED to. Tomorrow I'm gonna try and get on the slow side though. Just so I can gather my thoughts for work.

On an even better note, I ran into one of my better friends from Graydon's today. In class actually. It got to be to about 10 til 1 (the cafe closes at 1pm) and out of no where we got a final big push. I looked up with this exasperated look only to see her standing there. We actually both looked up at the same time, both got this shocked look on our face and then I regained my compsure and waited till she made her way up. It was nice and it totally made my day.

So thats this week in a nutshell. Yesterday I made what ended up being my "last supper" as an unemployed wanna-be cook. And I documented it. So that should be up soon. Why I don't want this blog to turn into one of those blogs where every entry is a new recipe. I may do it from time to time.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Man vs Himself

So I'm seriously close to the breaking point when it comes to finding a job. I'm just sick of it. I kind of have an unhealthy pattern going on of spending a week being gung ho about it and then a week of being apathetic. And its kind of at that point where I need to be gung ho ALL the time. Also its at the point where I need to make a decision to either go all out finding a morning/early afternoon job or be fuck it, drop out of my night lab (and try to get in a morning class) and then be gung ho about finding a job.

On a bright note, I had a job interview on Thurs. As far as the interview itself, I felt it went good. I conversed with the manager well. I tried to portray my experience level as well as possibile. But as far as wether or not it was well enough to get me a job, we'll see. If I havn't heard by Tuesday I'll give them a call. Wish me luck.

School is going good. Althogh next week is going to be the week from hell for me. I get to work the cashier. My last run as a cashier (when I worked at a comic shop back in 2006) didn't go so well. I got flustered and super nervous which inevitably led to a bout of stuttering. Not looking forward to it. Oh and I have a test tomorrow in Bev Management. And I got overwhelmed by the material so I havn't really studied much (oops)

So we'll see. This time next week I may be singing a different note.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Breaking and Making addictions

So lately I've been trying to break my self proclaimed "addiction" to pop (or soda). Partially because I can't be affording to spend extra money on it. And partially because if I'm not going to excercise worth a damn, I might as well lower my calorie intake. I say try because I still have pop when I'm at school. I mean, damn, I'm in a class that stimulates a cafe/deli. So that means access to a fountain pop machine, which means free pop for me. Oh well, a guy can try.

On the flip side, since moving in with Zigs, its seems I've been getting more addicted to Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and GTA 4. Lets face it folks, I'm a video game nerd (and a comic geek). So when I have access to new video games, I like to play them alot. Zigs keeps getting on my case about getting better at GH and RB. But nothing beats driving around Liberty City and causing chaos. The downside is that the cops AI have gotten slightly better. At least now they shoot you instead of just trying to ram you off the road. Unfortunately they're also not dumb enough to follow you off ramps to their death. Oh well.


In more productive news. The job hunt is bleh. I'm majorly stressing. I just want an F'n job. I mean I hate working just as much as the next guy and wish I could just do whatever I want all day for free. But I can't. And I want more hands on experience. Blah

Oh yeah....I'm in school, aren't I?

School is going well. Currently I’m taking two classes. Bakery/Deli Management (aka Art and Bev’s) and Beverage Management.

In B/D Management we pretty much run Art and Bev’s. A and B’s is one of the student run food establishments on campus. The class is supposed to help simulate running an actual cafĂ©/restaurant. While our teacher makes the main menu, the students are in charge of making everything and down the road will be responsible for proposing and making specials and what not. Week 1 of class was spent setting everything up and getting people assigned to their initial stations. Pretty boring if you ask me. Week 2 (last week) Art and Bev’s actually opened to the student population. And so far its gone pretty good if you ask me. My group is on the wrap/salad station. During service it also serves as the prep station since everything is made before hand. We’re kind of at that point now where since we’ve been open for a couple of days that we don’t have to do that much when it comes to making salads and wraps. But we do stay slightly busy making stuff for the front line. But like I said, the class is pretty interesting. I really appreciate the fact that I have a chance to get used to being in a kitchen environment without being in a straight up restaurant. Also I am REALLY looking forward to eventually getting experience on the grill (albeit a flat top), broiler and fry stations so I can have some familiarity with them when I hopefully get a job.

Beverage Management is also interesting looking. The class starts off with getting us our serve safe certification for Beverage service. If you’re serv safe certified, it apparently means you’re bad ass and know the federal laws and what not concerning the service of alcoholic beverages. The rest of the class is apparently spent on the different types of beer and wine and what foods they go good with. I only have the class two days a week so I really can’t drone on it as much as I could A and B’s

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What came before

So when it comes to life, its kind of almost a travesty to keep an account of where I'm going without giving you an account of where I've been. Seeing as how I'm attempting to log my "adventures" in line cooking and culinary school and beyond, its almost fitting that I give you a brief history of my previous "Adventures".

I. The Aspiration
My first forray in to the restaurant industry was in June 2001. I had just finished my first year of college at Calvin College and decided I needed a job. And not only a job, but a job in GR so when I went back to school I could keep it. It this time gas was relatively cheap (Upper $1-lower $2 range I think) so it was really just an afterthought. I ended up opening up a paper and seeing a place called Carrabba's was opening and was hiring staff. So I went in applied for busser or dishwasher. They were having open interveiws so I talked to Craig, the man who would eventually become my boss, and then went on my merry way. Long story short, I got the job and all was well in the world. I like to say things were fine and dandy, but if you've worked in restaurants before you know that no matter what job you have in a restaurant you know its bouts of chaos intertwined with moments of calmness. Eventually I became enthralled by the line cooks and how confident and bad ass (for lack of a better word) they seemed. And thought, "gee, this looks fun!" And while it was fun and interesting I later found out that that was TOTALLY not the care free attitude to go in it with.

Fall 2002 I enrolled at GRCC for Culinary Arts. It was fun and interesting. I met alot of nice people, a few who I keep in contact with still today and got my first look into the food industry. Right away though I felt kind of overwhelmed. I just happened to be with a bunch of students who were already cooking and live by food. And I felt kind of like the odd man out with my meager/non-existent knowledge. I didn't let it bother me until the summer of 2003 when I finally started to get trained as a Prep cook at Carrabba's. The lady training me was pretty much a bitch. While I loved her to death (and still would if I ever saw her), once training started she pretty much started acting like Gordon Ramsey (minus the throwing food at people). So that totally discouraged me so I decided to re-think cooking and more or less dropped out of school.
By this point I was already dishwashing and was continuing to dishwash. Fast forward to the winter semester of 2004. I decided to take a class in photography because it interested me. It was fun and so I decided to look into schools in the area for it to maybe continue it. Enter: Lansing Community College. I got one of their catalogs and saw that they had had a Film Production program which totally caught my eye. So I applied, got accepted, and moved to Lansing (which wasn't as simple as it sounded). I transferred to the Lansing Carrabba's and things looked up. Not so much for school, but mostly for work. Let me explain something. When you have to pay rent, utilities, a phone bill, gas, food, and of course for entertainment then making money almost has to take a priority. So school suffered, while my time at work increased. Once there I continued to work to dishwash more and more. Very early on I started to work my way into the clique of the cooks. I knew that if I could get in with them, then my chances of eventually cooking would increase. Two of my better friends there were Fabian, the KM, and his brother Gary, who was one of the cooks. Eventually it paid off because my friendship with the cooks then in turned caused them to turn around and pester Billy Ray, my boss at the Lansing Carrabba's, to let me on line. And it happened, and you know that thing I mentioned about chaoticness earlier. Yeah, that was my first day. I began to notice though that I wasn't as into it as I thought I'd be. As much as I loved the Lansing Carrabba's and people who worked there, there were too many politics. It didn't help that I was friends with a couple of the managers and I still had to fight for hours and shifts. I mean, its not like I was expecting Fabian and co to go, "Hey, we hang out with Tim, lets give him the best shifts!" It was more like when I say "Hey is there any way I could get more hours or work this day etc etc" and then get the same half-assed answers as everyone else gets (not from Fabian though), its kind of discomforting.

II. The Downward Spiral and Break
Anyway, fast forward to Summer of 2005. My ability to put up with the politics and my money had run out so I was like F-it, I moving home. I ended up getting a job at New Holland Brewing co. After the previous year at Carrabba's, and a little bit of initial drama right off the bat at NHBC between a couple of the potential managers. I totally wasn't into it. It was fun. But my mind wasn't into it. So September 2006, I got as job at Mark Maker and for the first time in 5 years I wasn't employed by a restaurant. Then something happened. More and more I started cooking for myself. I started enjoying it. At the same time, I started feeling socially awkward. The social quirks/situations I found myself in weren't the same as in the food industry. No longer was it okay for me to stay up to the wee hours in the morning and then sleep in till an hour before my shift. No longer did "Go F**k yourself" mean "Why of course I'll help you....and I love you" to someone. Granted I got an actually lunch break and rediscovered weekends. But it just wasn't the same

III. The Reinvigoration
Then one day I came home and turned on the TV and Top Chef was on. I had previously been watching Kitchen Nightmares online and had gotten a brief re-interest in working in the industry. The prize for the Quickfire prize was a book (I THINK it was Letters to a Young Chef). I looked up the book on Amazon and wasn't into the book. But then under the "People who bought this book also bought" recommendations I saw Kitchen Confidential. I bought it, read it, then read it again. And I was hooked. Among all the chaoticness and stress, Bourdain had reaffirmed what turned me on to the industry. The sense of accomplishment, the dysfunctional family feeling, and confidence one gained from it. From that point on, I was totally re-turned on to it. After some initial hesitation I also decided to go back to Culinary school.

IV. The Crash and Burn
Thus began the road to a journey which didn't really begin until June 18,2008. After a couple of months of applying for cooking jobs I had an interview and subsequently got hired. From the interview I knew it would be demanding and would be a challenge, which is totally what I was looking for. Only I didn't know how much of a challenge and how demanding it would be. You know that chaoticness I keep bringing up...yeah, there was a lot of that. And while there was some leniency to the fact I hadn't worked in the industry for a while but after a week or so they didn't have that luxury to give me anymore. The restaurant had only been open a month was still in the "hey we're a new and unique restaurant with AUTHENTIC British and Indian (as in the country India) food" rush and were expecting people who were on the top of their game. Unfortunately that wasn't me. Coming back to restaurants after 2 years away was a culture shock. I kept making minor mistakes on things and although I did okay on salads, any attempts to get me on the hot stations was a disaster. I could point fingers as to various reasonings (a couple which are valid....kinda) as to why it totally wasn't my fault but I was reading the writing on the wall. The feather that broke the camel's back was one day when I came in and shortly after punching in getting an order from a fruit cup. I was in the midst of madly restocking the line and pre-making a few of the cold apps and without thinking about it (or checking it) I grabbed a fruit cup and put it up. And as luck would have it, it had something that was slightly brown in it.
My boss totally got on my case about it and how I wasn't on top of things and need to "own my station" and went on to pull apart my station. He pulled aside numerous things which he didn't like, some which were my doing, some which were others. But since I was there I got the bulk of the grief. Also he found something which was out of date which required a huge amount of prep so he had to pull a few people off line to help. After that was all taken care of the rest of the night went okay.
The next day I came in and kind of had a feeling of what was to come. I noticed that both of the prep people were at the salad station, and that the normal morning salad person was in dish. After talking to her I found out that chef had come down on her too and he punishment was a pretty much permanent demotion to dish. I started prepping salads until chef and one of the managers pulled me out to the dining room. The talk was pretty much what you expected "things aren't working out...blah blah put up bad food....blah blah don't seem to be picking things up....blah blah almost ran out of stuff the night before causing us to pull people off the line (although he forgot to mention that when the morning person asked if he wanted her to stay to finish prepping that stuff he told her to leave)...blah blah blah." So yeah, essentially I got fired. I went back to the kitchen told a few people and then left

V. The Aftermath
Surprisingly I wasn't that mad. I knew I had f'ed up and this industry isn't one you can afford to make any mistakes. After going out to my car, I sat there for about 15 minutes taking it in. Then shrugged and went my merry way. I called my partner in crime, Lindsay to see what was up and hung out with her all day. I spent the next couple of weeks focusing on school. And now I'm finally back in the grind of looking for a cooking job. Where will it take me, who knows. But I'm ready for the chance to have my time in the trenches

So, it begins

My name is Tim and I’m a cook. Well that’s a lie. I’m technically not a cook. Right now I’m unemployed for making a few minor mistake as a cook. And in a case of wrong place, (super) wrong time I made them when the owner of the restaurant was getting on the chef’s case about labor costs. And I was a casualty of that, most likely due to the fact that the chef couldn’t take the extra time to train me. Ok, so maybe I missed something that was kind of major. It wasn't fully my fault, but my failure to miss it also played a factor. But since I'm writing this blog, this is the last it will be mentioned....ha

So yeah, I’m unemployed, but I still think of myself as a cook for 2 reasons. 1) I’m going to school for culinary arts so in theory I should be getting a new job as a cook soon any way. And 2), most of my more “endearing” personality quirks are thanks to my time in restaurant work. Some other cooks have them, some don't. But belive me I'm not too different from any cook I've met

-I tend to be quite cynical at times
-I antagonize people and/or play devils advocate
-I have a major distrust/annoyance at people who seem overtly perky (I.E. like any server whos may or may not be sucking up to you to get a good tip)
-The habit of randomly grabbing small bits of edible food
- And counting it as "stuff I ate today" when my mom ask
- The fact that after a week or so, I can train my body to stay up late, sleep 5-6 hrs, wake up and go through my day like nothing is wrong
- The first pants and shirt I can find are totally viable options of what to wear out
- The idea of "going to the bar" is a totally viable option of an after work activity
- I love bartenders (which stems more from my stint as a busser than from cooking)
- my potty mouth (sorry mom)
- the fact I can cut or burn myself and not let it phase me
- the usage of a certain
- In the food industry, telling some one to "F**k Off" normally means "Why of course I'll make mashed potatoes for you even though the dishtank is overflowing with dishes! And I love you too!"
- I'm used to vacation's being 1 or 2 days off and nobody noticing I was gone

Yeah, most people think people in the food industry are crazy. But there are many things that "normal" people can relate to and appreciate. In the right setting, you form a dysfunctional family type of bond with your fellow cooks/dishwashers/select members of front of the house who you like. You see theses people just as much if not more than your family, so its expected. Also it builds self confidence and self esteem. Theres a small line between being cocky and being self confident. Many kitchen types straddle that line. But its needed. You have no time to question yourself (which I admit, I tend to do ALOT). So its needed.

But to get back on track, my name is Tim. Most people call me Timmy. I have one or two other nicknames which I'll get into later. I like to think of myself as a cook and hope to come to at least garner more of the positives aspects of it. This is my crappy blog. While most my attempts at multiple blogging has failed, I hope this one will succeed. I’m going to try to document whats going on with out having it relegate in to “I did this, then I did this, then I did this” and try to relate my feelings, thoughts, well-thought out ramblings, and things I find interesting.

When I originally came up with the grand scheme to make this blog, I wanted to focus more on my life as a culinary student and hopefully soon to be cook. But now, I’m just going to focus on life in general. Cause eventually life will be affected by culinary school and my hopeful soon to be job. And like one of my former co-workers at my former place of employment pointed out, eventually it will get to the point where the main people you hang out with are cooks anyway. So thats life.